Monday, 23 July 2012

"What's your problem" series #1 - What role would you enjoy?

In the first of a series of articles examining some of the common problems encountered by people seeking to develop their career, this post takes a look at career goals.

What sort of job, in what sort of organisation, do you want to aim for?  How do you know?  I’ve always envied those few people I’ve come across who have it all sorted, who have known from a young age exactly what they wanted to do in life, and have succeeded in achieving their goal.  On the other hand, I’ve also found such single mindedness a bit daunting.  How on earth did they know, aged 13 and ¾ or whenever, what they wanted to do with their whole life?  Why did I have no idea?

There are several different approaches to developing your career, all equally valid in my mind.  These range from the single-minded, vocational, ‘I’ll be an xx when I grow up’ through the general aptitude and interest ‘I’ll give that a go and see what happens’ to the uncertain but need to earn a living ‘I’ll take anything that I can do with the skills I’ve got’ approach.

Do you have to have a career goal?  The short answer is ‘no’.  If you are happy with how things are going, you’re working in a job you enjoy and earning what you need, and you expect to either stay in that role or earn promotion naturally over time, then you probably don’t need a grand master plan.

On the other hand, if you are feeling at all dissatisfied with your job, aren’t earning enough, or aren’t sure where you’ll be or if you’ll be enjoying it in a few years time, then a bit of strategy and some action planning on how to get somewhere better probably wouldn’t go amiss.

Once you’ve decided that you need to think about where you’re going with your career, then the problem becomes one of ‘how?’.  There are two halves to this question – how to find out about the wider information profession, so you have a clear picture of all the possible opportunities and directions available out in the market, and how to determine what you’d enjoy doing and have the capabilities to do.

Finding out about the first one is a matter of research.  Investigating all the various library, information, records & knowledge management groups and associations that are out there is one good way to tackle this.  Every part of the industry, it seems, has its own group catering to its own networking and professional development needs.  Simply creating a list of them all will give you a good idea of the full spread of the information profession.  Taking a look at the events and courses they offer will give you more insight into each area.

Finding out what you’d enjoy doing entails:
  • Examining your personal values (what’s important to you; status, achievement, learning, money, promotion, reward, acknowledgement, family, etc)
  •  Looking at what gives you job satisfaction (finding information, helping others find information, organising data, facilitating knowledge sharing, etc)
  • Understanding your personality type (how do you behave in a team, what sort of management style will help you thrive, etc)
With the outcomes from these two questions in hand you can match between the two, and hopefully find some degree of overlap between available options and roles you’d enjoy having!  That gives you a clear template to use when you are browsing lisjobnet or other sources of library and information sector job adverts, to filter down to only those jobs that will help you on your path to your ideal job.

Having a clear career goal in mind, and being aware of your skills gaps and how certain roles might help you bridge these, also means that you can be better prepared for interviews.  These are two way communications and are your chance to find out enough about the organisation, its culture and the job itself to see whether it’s a good match for you.

I also came across this article with some great tips for making goals achievable and realistic by Annette Earle that I wanted to share with you.

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